The exciting life of Thomas Cairns

From senior vice president of Human Resources for NBC Universal and NBC Entertainment to presidential appointee to Homeland Security in Washington D.C. to associate professor of business and management, it is safe to say that Thomas Cairns has lived a life worth talking about.


Before teaching at APU, Cairns worked for 11 years with NBC, which led him from New Jersey to Philadelphia, to the beaches of Miami, and then back to Philadelphia.


“Working with NBC allowed me to work with people of diverse talent and people of integrity,” Cairns said.


After a successful career with NBC, he was almost ready to retire when he got the most enticing call of a lifetime.


“The best recruitment line for a job I have ever had was hearing, ‘Would you be willing to serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States of America?’” Cairns said.


Cairns, who has been married to the love of his life for 37 years, was ready for a new adventure. He and his wife, after just retiring and moving to California, made their way back to the East Coast where Cairns assumed the responsibility for Human Resource Management and training for the Department of Homeland Security, which has over 200,000 employees.


“It is by far the best job I have ever had,” Cairns said.


He recalls his apartment being located next to a national zoo in D.C., which did not bother his wife or him one bit; instead, he felt it made sense. He remembers enjoying riding the subway and the fun trips he and his wife would take, exploring the city. The job itself though was an experience he says he will never forget. He remembers working with Homeland Security as being distinctly different from working at NBC.


“The department would always be thinking in advance — in terms of the future [which was much different than NBC],” Cairns said.


When talking about his co-workers in D.C., Cairns has nothing but respect for their dedication to their jobs.


“Many of the employees I worked with in the department had been there for 20 or 30 years,” Cairns said.


After a fast-paced, yet exciting year in D.C., he knew he was finally ready to settle down and begin the next step in his career: teaching. After moving back to California, he received a call from a friend, asking him to be a guest lecturer at APU in the business department. He knew after he had stepped on campus that this is where he wanted to be.


“Being on a college campus reminds me of that great movie ‘A Beautiful Mind,’ surrounded by young minds that are eager to learn,” Cairns said.


A college campus provides Cairns with students that are open to challenges and students that bring out creativity that is sometimes lost with age. At APU, he saw that there were shapeable and teachable students who were equipped with the right tools to be successful.


“I tell my students that I want them to experience a life-changing experience in my class,” Cairns said.


He stretches and pushes his students to the limits, forcing them to take inventory of themselves and attempting to prepare them for promotions, not just jobs. Cairns specializes in helping students develop their skill sets and making their faith an integral part of their career.

Overall, Cairns believes that values come from faith and believes that if he can assist in a student defining those values and establishing his or her career based on glorifying God, then he feels he has succeeded.


“This place, [APU], allows me to contribute everything I have,” Cairns said.